NEBOSH Open Book Exam Question Breakdown and Answer | Step-by-Step | Part 1

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I’m going to break down an example OBE question and go through an approach you could use to structure your answer. The scenario is based on an incident involving fork-lift trucks at a warehouse. There will be a link to the scenario in the description.

The question is:

Task: Explaining the duties of employers to the employee

What general duties of employers to their employees are likely to have been breached by the employer in this scenario? (10)

You only need to consider those duties of employers under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Note: You should support your answer, where applicable, using relevant information from the scenario.


I think the danger with this question is that you could end up investing a lot of time and effort into your answer but still score very few points by straying from the requirements of the question as stated, which kind of boxes you into discussing only section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and nothing else. For example, you might unwittingly start discussing the lack of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, but this would be a breach of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, not section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

So, to tackle this question, the first thing I’m going to do is carefully go through the scenario and pull out any snippets that I think are going to give me what I need. With this stage, I’m not going to over-think things too much because my process involves a next stage where I know I’m going to have the opportunity to start to fine-tune things. So, some of what I end up pulling out of the scenario might end up getting discarded.

It’s worth mentioning at this stage that in order to do this, you need to have put in the work when it comes to studying. You’ve got to already have a good understanding of section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Even though it’s an open book exam and you can pull up the relevant information in a web browser, it will take too long to familiarise yourself with it in a way that will enable you to apply it to the scenario on exam day, unless you’ve already got a base level of knowledge dialled in.

After reading through the scenario, there were 11 snippets that I pulled out and pasted into a separate document. 

  1. goods stacked in aisles and blocking designated walkways.
  2. frequent near-misses between FLTs and workers, and collisions with products causing damage and spillages
  3. There are no written records of any of these. 
  4. The brakes were applied too late, as the driver was distracted by their mobile phone
  5. FLT skidded on an oil spillage
  6. There are no health and safety worker representatives. 
  7. Warehouse workers have told you that they have complained to management about working conditions many times. 
  8. They rarely see management in the warehouse.  
  9. You cannot find any written records of complaints.
  10. You are told that there is no money for ‘that kind of thing’, and even if it were available, it would cause too much disruption to the business.
  11. The Inspector also observed that the written risk assessments are too general and do not reflect the actual risks in the warehouse.

Now what I’m going to do is use a 3 column structure to help me break down the task. In the first column, I’m going to paste the snippet. In the second column, I’m going to insert the reference to the breach. To do this I’ve got the relevant piece of legislation open on another screen and I’m just putting in the alpha-numerical references of what, in my opinion, could be breaches of the legislation. Then, in the third column, I’m going to enter some brief information to rationalise why I think each item in column 2 could be a breach.

goods stacked in aisles and blocking designated walkways.

 

(2) (e)

Not maintaining a safe working environment

frequent near-misses between FLTs and workers, and collisions with products causing damage and spillages

 

(2) (a)

No safe system of work for FLT’s

There are no written records of any of these. 

 

(3)

No effective H&S arrangements

The brakes were applied too late, as the driver was distracted by their mobile phone

 

(2) (c)

Lack of training/supervision

FLT skidded on an oil spillage

 

(2) (d)

Not maintaining a safe workplace

There are no health and safety worker representatives. 

 

(6)

Lack of consultation

Warehouse workers have told you that they have complained to management about working conditions many times. 

 

(6)

Lack of consultation

They rarely see management in the warehouse.  

 

(2) (c)

Lack of supervision

You cannot find any written records of complaints.

 

(6)

Lack of consultation

You are told that there is no money for ‘that kind of thing’, and even if it were available, it would cause too much disruption to the business.

 

(3)

No effective H&S policy

The Inspector also observed that the written risk assessments are too general and do not reflect the actual risks in the warehouse.

(3)

No effective H&S arrangements

So, as you can see, at this point I’ve ended up with a solid structure to work with and this puts me in a better frame of mind about this question. In the next post, I’ll show you how I would take what I’ve got here and put it into an answer that I would submit on my actual answer paper.

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